"Life is what happens while you are waiting for your wishes to come true".
The one thing that I try not to do is to ignore what is going on around me while time goes on. It's been almost a year since I posted my last pilot trip report for America West, and I have been greatly enjoying my life during that time. But now that I am comfortably back in the cockpit for Hawaiian Airlines, I thought it would be a good time to offer another glimpse of what I do in the course of my job.
I had been sitting close to the top of the furlough list at Hawaiian for nearly three years when I got the call last spring offering me my position back. I had to decide whether to go back, bypass and stay with America West, or resign my position completely at Hawaiian. I won't go into all the details of what I had to consider, but some of the issues included pay, seniority, and quality of life. In the end, I decided to go back to Hawaiian. I have nothing but respect for the people at America West, and I greatly appreciate the chance to fly for them and the experiences I gained there.
Last May I began re-learning the 767, and by June was on-line and flying. As opposed to my previous time at Hawaiian though, I am now based in Honolulu instead of Seattle. This means I have to begin each set of trips by commuting from Seattle to the islands. But since I had been commuting for two years with America West, it isn't that much different -- just a longer flight. This new base also means that I am flying a much wider variety of trips than before. In the Seattle base I flew almost exclusively the SEA
(Maui) flights. Now I do everything except those trips.
While I was on furlough Hawaiian began flying to Sydney Australia. Ever since I came back I have been bidding for those trips, but they were always picked up by pilots more senior than me -- until this month. Here is a report from one of those trips.
My Sydney trip came at the beginning of an eight-day stretch of work. Since the flight to Sydney leaves before any of our flights arrive from the west coast, I had to commute into Honolulu the day before. We now have two flights a day from Seattle to Honolulu on four days of the week, and a single flight the other three. There is also a daily flight to Maui, which I can use as a backup if necessary. I had listed myself for standby on our company's employee website, and showed up in plenty of time for the 8:05am departure. This was flight 27, on aircraft 589HA. In just the last few weeks Hawaiian has switched gates from the 'A' concourse to the 'B' concourse. This allows us to use two gates at a time instead of just one, which is a very good thing when we have three flights leaving in a two-and-a-half hour window. The flight was almost completely full, but I did get a seat -- 16H, an aisle seat on the right side just ahead of the wing. Before I stowed my bags I pulled out a couple of books and my iPod and put them in the seat pocket. The weather was cold but mostly clear, with remnants of morning fog drifting over the airport. Because of the fog and the temperatures, a good coating of frost clung to the plane. Once everyone was onboard we had to wait several minutes to deice. The Captain did a very good job keeping us appraised of how far along the deicers were, and how much longer is should take. I had flown with this Captain many times before while based in Seattle, and he is great to work with -- much like the entire pilot group at Hawaiian. Many people don't realize that Hawaiian has been existence as a continuously operating airline since 1929 with an impeccable safety record. During the 1980's and '90's Hawaiian had an extensive charter operation that had crews flying for weeks at a time literally all over the world. I don't know of a more experienced or more professional pilot group anywhere else.
Outside the fog rolled in an out, occasionally blanketing the airport and restricting the view to a few hundred feet. Then it would drift away and the shallow morning sunlight would give the world outside a sparkling monochrome tint of gray and white frost. The cold winter weather muted all the other colors, even the vibrant purple on the tail of our plane. The workers outside were bundled in heavy clothing, their breath making tiny fog banks of their own as they trundled around prepping our plane for its flight to paradise. Inside the plane however there was hula music on the PA system, and the smell of guava juice and tropical flowers, all reminders of where we were going.
The deice trucks did their job, and we pushed back onto the ramp, about fifteen minutes late. The engines started and we taxied to the north end of the airport where, with little traffic, we pulled right onto the runway and took off. I sat next to a very nice lady who worked as a flight attendant for a corporate-jet leasing operation. She was going to Hawaii to start a week-long excursion around several parts of the Pacific aboard a Gulfstream G550, and our conversation reminded me of how many different jobs are available within our own small industry.
I've gotten good at finding ways to pass the time on these commutes, and with the help of my iPod and a good book ('Saturday', by Ian McEwan -- check it out), we were soon descending into Honolulu. We landed on runway 8L
and pulled into gate 34 for a flight time of 5:38. I went to our crew room to check my mailbox and then went to the parking lot to get the car for the drive to the house I stay at. Commuting to Honolulu is a bit different for me than commuting to Las Vegas was with America West. At AWA all the trips left in the evening, and I could commute in the day of the trip, and get home the same day it ended. With Hawaiian that doesn't work because many of the trips start late-morning or early afternoon, preventing me from coming in the same day. Also, I try and bunch up as many trips as I can in a row, so I don't have to commute across the Pacific any more than necessary. That means that I often spend a day or so in Honolulu between trips and need a place to stay. Therefore I am renting a room from another pilot here, and share a car with another commuter in the same house. I stopped at the grocery store on the way in, and picked up something to eat for the night. Nobody else was at the house that night, so I settled in for a quiet evening of studying, as my yearly recurrent training was looming in a couple weeks.
I arrived at the airport about two-and-a-half hours before departure because I wanted to get some film for my camera and change some money to Australian dollars. The crew room was empty because the big afternoon arrival/departure bank for the 767's hadn't started, and the morning crews on the 717's were all out flying. The Captain for our trip soon showed up, and I introduced myself. Since I had spent all the time before my furlough based in Seattle, there were a lot of Honolulu pilots that I hadn't met before. It is a benefit to being based in HNL
that I'm finally getting to meet the rest of the pilot group here.
FAA regulations prohibit two-man crews from flying more than eight hours a day, so for the Sydney flight we have to add another pilot. We use First Officers (FO's) that are type-rated in the plane (most of us already are) as 'Relief Officers'. Our RO
showed up -- an FO that I hadn't met before either, and we all took a look at the flight plan and weather information for the trip. It looked to be a pleasant flight, with only a small area of isolated thunderstorms just south of the equator. Since I hadn't done a SYD
trip before, the Captain explained the differences to me, and then we all left for the plane.
At the gate we showed the agent our ID
's and boarded aircraft N581HA. Since there are three pilots the procedures differ a little from normal. The RO
went outside to do the inspection while I got the paperwork ready. The Captain would fly the leg down, and I would fly back in a couple days. Getting ready for any overwater flight takes more preparation than a typical domestic flight like I used to do with AWA. Overwater flights fall under the ETOPS rules, which stand for E
(and no, it doesn't stand for E
wim). Those rules allow two-engined aircraft to fly passengers across areas where the nearest alternate airport is further away than the 60 minutes normally allowed. In order to fly ETOPS the airline and aircraft have to establish equipment reliability and procedures that ensure the safety of the flight. Additional equipment is required on the aircraft such as dual backup electrical generators, and fire suppression equipment for the cargo holds that can last for over three hours. Before each flight the mechanics must do a more rigorous inspection of the aircraft including all fluid levels (oil, hydraulic, etc), and ensure that a much more stringent set of rules on inoperative equipment is met. For instance if you are flying a 767 from Los Angeles to Denver it is OK
to go without one of the engine-driven electrical generators, but not if you're flying under ETOPS rules.
From the pilot's perspective, there isn't that much difference in going to SYD
versus the west coast of the US. There are a few paperwork changes, and some technical differences in the dispatch procedures that I won't get into, but in general we enter the flightplan information into the airplane's computer, check that all the systems operate properly, and that our weight and balance data is valid. There is a whole lot more fuel onboard a SYD
flight than I am used to though. In this case we had just over 140,000 pounds for a 10+ hour flight. Normally for the west coast we have about 70,000 pounds or so. If you want to do the math, jet fuel weighs about 6.7 pounds per gallon. We use pounds for our calculations, because that more accurately reflects our needs -- figuring out how much the aircraft weighs for takeoff.
Once the preflight checks were done all we had to do was wait for the boarding to finish. Our ground staff did their usual excellent job and we pushed back one minute earlier than our scheduled departure time of 11:55am, HST
. The weather in Honolulu was a bit strange with thick clouds and a wind from the southwest, instead of the normal northeast tradewinds. This meant that we would depart from runway 26L, the reef runway. Once clear of the terminal we were allowed to start our engines, and once the second one began turning we let the tug crew go on to their next job. With both engines started I called for our taxi clearance, and the tower cleared us to cross 26R, and head toward the south ramp. We paralleled the cargo and flight school operations on the south ramp, then turned toward the end of runway 26L. There weren't any other aircraft ahead of us, and as we approached the end of the runway we were given our takeoff clearance. It is a credit to the power of the 767 that even though we were close to our maximum takeoff weight (over 400,000 pounds) the takeoff roll felt like one from a much lighter flight. Our takeoff speeds were higher than I had seen before though, with our rotation speed set at 164 knots (about 188 mph). We climbed away from the airport, and turned toward the southwest and our first fix on the track toward Australia.
The tower turned us over to departure control, and from there we switched to Honolulu Center. About twenty minutes after takeoff we leveled at 32,000 feet, our initial cruising altitude. Having a three man crew means that we can each take breaks along the way. We all sit in the cockpit for the takeoff and landing, but enroute we need to take breaks so we don't spend more than eight hours actually at the controls. Since I hadn't been to Australia before I wanted to be around for the more interesting and different parts, and those came in the later parts of the flight. So I was given the first rest shift, and once the initial cruise paperwork had been finished, I went back to our 'rest area' which is in fact a seat in first class that is reserved for us. Our flight attendants were just beginning their lunch/dinner service so I put away my book and enjoyed a rare treat for an airline employee these days -- a first class meal. White linen tablecloths, china plates, and real silverware (except the knives of course) were set on my tray table. Next came the salad along with a taro roll. The main course was a swordfish steak crusted with herbed crab meat served on soba noodles, and dessert was a chocolate something-or-other with whipped cream on top. Being part of the crew meant that I didn't have a choice of entrees (there are three), but get whatever is left after the paying passengers have chosen. I didn't mind, because all three choices were excellent. For a guy used to the average crewmeal, (leather, feather, or fin -- the typical choices), it sure was nice to be able to stretch out and enjoy a dinner inflight. Hawaiian has won numerous awards for our service in First Class and in Coach, and I was glad to be able to experience it again. Once the meal was done I reclined the seat and read my book until it was time to go back up front -- about three hours after I had left.
I called the cockpit on the intercom, and with a flight attendant guarding the door, I switched places with the Captain. The RO
took the Captain's seat, and I took mine while the Captain went back to enjoy his break. It was a calm day in the mid-Pacific, but on the weather charts we knew there would be some activity once we crossed the equator. The track we were on was nearly a straight line from Hawaii to the northeast coast of Australia, and is one of three that are available to our dispatch planners. They pick the route that provides the most efficient flight, as well as avoiding any bad weather, and today we were on the most westerly of the three routes. We crossed the equator just a few miles east of the 180 degree longitude line, half way around the planet from London England. At the same time we switched control from Oakland Oceanic to Nadi Control in Fiji. There are really no uncontrolled areas of airspace, even across the vast reaches of the Pacific. The US controls a large swath of the eastern half of the Pacific, while other sections are controlled by other entities. The only difference as far as we can see though is the name of who we call on the radio, and sometimes their accent.
We made position reports at the established waypoints along our track, and called them in on the HF
(High Frequency) radio. This differs from the normal VHF radios we use in that they have a much longer range, but often at the expense of clarity. Imagine putting your head inside a large metal can, then having your friends rub sandpaper and rocks on the outside while another friend yells at you from about fifty yards away. That is what using HF
radio is like. In the old days it was worse because one of the pilots had to keep a constant listen for their callsign -- a sure recipe for a headache by touchdown. Today we have what is called a selcal system that allows ATC to send a special tone over the radio, which then sets off a chime in the cockpit. We know that we have been called and turn up the volume. These position reports let the air traffic controllers know where we are, when we got there, where we are going next, and what time we expect to get there. Their computers crunch those numbers and come up with a pretty good idea where everyone is at a particular moment. Even though there is no radar coverage over the open ocean, they are still able to keep us apart based on our position reports.
Starting just south of the equator we saw some buildups on the radar. Most were off to the side, but one good sized cell was planted right on our track. We called Nadi and asked for permission to deviate for the weather. The cleared us for 30 miles on either side of the track. We did a little zigging and zagging, and about forty-five minutes later reached the clear air on the other side of the thunderstorms. The Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) is a semi-permanent feature when flying through that part of the world where the air flowing toward the equator from the poles meets, moves upward, and spawns some occasionally unbelievable storms. They were pretty mild for us though, and we were soon in the clear.
The Captain came back to the cockpit, and the RO
went aft to take his rest. We had passed over some islands just south of the equator, but they were hidden by the clouds. Looking at our charts, we saw that around twelve degrees south we'd be passing just east of some very small islands and we started looking for them. We saw them, tiny uninhabited rocks in a vast ocean. They were the far east end of the Solomon Islands, called the Santa Cruz Islands. Further ahead on our track though were some much larger islands. We flew directly over the town of Santos on Espiritu Santo Island, part of Vanuatu. The islands were quite large, and lushly green. The coral reefs around their edges sparkled in green and blue, and small white clouds dotted the air over the islands. To our left were the town of Port Villa and Vanuatu's capitol, and Pentecost Island, famous for their 'land divers', early predecessors of today's bungee jumpers. The track we were following made a slight southerly turn at Santos, and about forty minutes later we flew over the north end of New Caledonia. There is an enormous reef system off the northern end of that island, and it looked like a divers paradise in that crystal clear water.
We were chasing the sun across the sky, and in the seven or so hours that had passed since takeoff, it looked like only a few hours had passed by the position of the sun. Now we were over the XXX sea, and the next landmass ahead was Australia. Just after passing New Caledonia we switched from Nadi control to Brisbane. A crisp Aussie accent greeted us on our first waypoint in their airspace, another sign that the trip was nearing its end. Along the way we had been monitoring our fuel usage, and we were exactly on the plan. It felt good to be in this plane, stretching our collective legs, whispering along in what seemed to be a never ending day, with the plane doing exactly what it was designed to do; take hundreds of people in comfort and safety to far distant places. I have always liked doing long-haul flying, and this trip proved it again for me.
came up to the cockpit as we approached the shoreline. A couple hundred miles offshore of Brisbane, our route turned further south, nearly paralleling the coast as we continued toward Sydney. We could see huge thunderstorms in the distance over the Australian outback, but the shoreline itself was hidden in the afternoon mist. We started talking to Brisbane Center on the VHF radio again once we were less than 150 miles from the coast. Traffic into Sydney was light and I saw only a couple planes crossing the sky in the distance. Along the way the Captain had been passing on tips and hints to me about the differences we'd see in Australian airspace as opposed to the US. They were minor, and I didn't feel any apprehension as we started our descent. ATC turned us toward the airport, which sits south of the city of Sydney, its runways poking out into Botany Bay. As we descended I could see the city itself sitting alongside Sydney harbor out my window. We would be landing to the north on runway 34L. Approach control turned us over to the tower, and we were cleared to land. As we turned onto final and flew over the bay we were pointed almost directly at downtown Sydney, and I again felt a rush of excitement at the thought of visiting a place I had heard about for so long, but had never been to. The wind was gusting from our right, but the Captain made a beautiful landing past a waiting Austrian Airlines aircraft, and we rolled onto the taxiway as we slowed to walking speed. The RO
had called ahead to our operations people in Sydney, and we were assigned gate 53. It was a short taxi to our gate, which had us parking next to an Emirates 777. We came to a stop and shut down for a total block time of 10:13. It was still daylight, and I wasn't even tired -- just excited to have finally made the trip. Sydney is three hours behind Honolulu, or more accurately, twenty one hour ahead since we had crossed the international dateline. We'd left HNL
at noon on a Thursday, but arrived in Sydney shortly after 7pm on Friday evening.
Part of the 'Australian experience' is the bug bomb. All arriving international aircraft have to be sprayed for insects before anyone can disembark. The flight attendants opened the door for a moment to retrieve the spray from the government official there, then closed it again and walked through the cabin (and cockpit) spraying anti-bug-juice. Once that was done, they re-opened the door, and let the passengers out. After they had left we followed them down through customs, and a few minutes later we were standing outside the terminal enjoying the summer evening. It was quite a change -- and quite a long ways -- from the frosty morning in Seattle where I had begun this trip. The sun set as we waited for the bus to pick us up, and by the time we reached the hotel in downtown Sydney it was dark. As much as I hated to admit it, by the time I reached my room I knew that I was pretty tired. So I just changed my clothes, went to a nearby convenience store to get some food for the morning, and went back to the room to crash. I had nearly two days ahead to do my sightseeing, and I needed my sleep. I tried watching SkyNews (the Australian CNN), but within minutes felt my eyelids drooping. It was time for lights out, and time to rest for the next day's activities.
Since this is a trip report and not a travel magazine, I won't cover this too much, other than to say that if you haven't been to Sydney, by all means do it. The city is modern, clean, and the residents are friendly and active. There were people all over the place walking, jogging, or just enjoying the summer sun. I took a walking tour on my own through Hyde Park, the Botanical Gardens, around the famous Sydney Opera House, and part way across the Sydney Harbor Bridge. I stopped at a pub for lunch, had some great fish & chips, and sampled some local Australian brew (just for research purposes, of course). The Captain and RO
had been here several times before, so they took a bus down to Bondi Beach, and walked all the way down to Bronte Beach. In the mean time I went back to my room, cooled off for an hour, then went out to the shopping district to find some presents to take back to my family. I found another local restaurant for dinner, and finally went to an internet café so I could e-mail everyone back home and tell them I made it safely to 'Oz'. Sydney is a busy place, especially on a Saturday night. I fell asleep to the sounds of the partiers coming and going from the pubs around the hotel.
FOUR & FIVE, SYD
The return flight to Honolulu didn't leave until after 9pm, so I had almost another full day in Sydney. I took the ferry across the harbor to Manly, a beach town on the north side of the harbor. It was a Sunday and there was a large 2 kilometer open-water swimming race, and our RO
and one of the flight attendants had entered. We all went over to Manly, along with several open-water swimmers from Hawaii who were in town for the race too. The water was warm and clear, and the town was fantastic. I watched most of the race, then around noon I took the ferry back to Sydney, did some last minute shopping then went to the hotel to prep for the trip home. Sleep schedules always takes a little planning when flying long-distance or redeye flights. I had gotten up early, so I could take a nap before leaving. I had my uniform ironed and ready, and turned out the lights about 2pm. I woke up at 6:30, and was ready when the van arrived at 7:20pm. It was a short ride to the airport, and we had plenty of time to wander around the extensive duty-free shops in the international terminal. The Captain and I also went to the offices of Menzies Aviation, our ground handler in SYD
. They had all of our flight plans and weather information ready for us, and we went over it in the comfort of their offices, rather than in the cramped cockpit.
Our aircraft -- N583HA -- had arrived on time an hour earlier. That was good news for us, because the Sydney airport has a strict curfew on jet aircraft departing after 11pm. If we couldn't get airborne by then, we would be stuck for the night. Everything was in working order however, and we were able to start boarding on schedule. Our route back to Hawaii was on the same track that we'd flown down on, however most of the trip would be at night. The same weather pattern was in place too, with scattered thunderstorms in the ITCZ just south of the equator. There was also a jetstream moving eastward from Brisbane, which would cause some turbulence about an hour into the flight.
Our station staff is headed up by a former flight attendant of ours, and he knows how to get things ready for us, even if there are problems. Our only glitch was a late arriving fuel truck, which meant that they were still fueling the plane when we were ready to go -- it takes a lot of time to put that much gas on the plane. We only had to wait a few more minutes though, and our station manager ran downstairs to get the fuel paperwork for us. With that onboard and our final weight and balance numbers ready, we pushed back a one minute ahead of our 9:20 departure time. A Malaysian 777 had just pulled in to the gate on our right, and (I think) a Gulf Air Airbus was on our left. As we pushed back a Thai 747 taxied into a nearby gate, and a Virgin Blue plane landed on the crossing runway ahead of us. It all reminded me of what an international crossroads Sydney really is. The tug pulled us out of the tight ramp area to a spot where we could safely start our engines. We got both engines running, and let the tug crew go. From there we were cleared to taxi, but had to wait for a Virgin Atlantic A340 to go around us. We taxied up to the northern end of the field and were number one to go, off of runway 16R. It was my leg to fly, so when the tower cleared us for takeoff, the Captain turned us onto the runway, then I took over steering with the rudder pedals and applied the power. We were nearly full again, and had a lot of cargo in the belly. That put us near our maximum takeoff weight, but the 767 handled it beautifully. We climbed into the calm night sky, and once over the ocean made a big left turn to start flying northward. The lights of the coastline were beautiful, and a nearly full moon illuminated the scattered clouds below. The moonlight also reflected off the patches of open ocean inbetween the clouds and made it look like a solid, flat plain below. I turned on the autopilot, and let it guide us along our route. We leveled at 31,000 feet, staying low to avoid the worst of the turbulence associated with the jetstream over Brisbane. We stayed in contact with Brisbane Center for quite a while, until we turned more toward the northwest and moved further away from land. We turned up the lights in the cockpit as a way to keep us from falling asleep, and the Captain went back to the cabin, taking the first rest shift.
and I talked about his swimming race earlier that day, and he said he was happy with his effort. Both he and the flight attendant had done well, and in fact the F/A had apparently won her age group (60+), but wouldn't be able to pick up her plaque until her next trip to SYD
the following week.
Right about where we expected, we encountered a few patches of moderate turbulence, and the RO
and I were kept busy slowing the plane down and watching for buildups of clouds. Having a bright moon outside helped, and when we turned down the cockpit lights it was pretty easy to see what was coming up ahead. The F/A's brought up our crewmeals, unfortunately not of the first-class variety this time. I had a spicy chicken sandwich and a bag of chips, and resigned myself to the fact that better food was an occasional luxury. Within an hour the turbulence subsided, and we were left to keep an eye on the sky for other bumps. We passed over New Caledonia again, but could only see a few lights from villages on the north end of the island. There were a few more lights peeking through the clouds over Espiritu Santo, but those too passed quickly behind us. The Captain came forward and the RO
went back to sleep, still tired from his swim that day.
Long flights like this one soon turn into a steady rhythm for us, making radio calls at the waypoints, checking that our fuel burn is proceeding correctly, and that all the other systems were operating normally. We didn't see any more lights from islands below, and continued on through the moonlit night. At about ten degrees south of the equator we began to encounter the thunderstorms of the ITCZ, and as on the way down, we got a clearance to deviate around them. They were bigger than before, and we had to go as far as 30 miles off our track to get around the biggest of them. Thanks to GPS technology however we always knew exactly where we were in relation to our intended track, and it was easy to get back on it once we cleared the storms. We only saw one other plane on our track, an unknown 747 going the opposite direction 1000 feet above us. The moon had moved behind us, but still lit up the clouds below us giving the night a wonderful silky whiteness. I looked behind us out my side window and saw the constellation of the southern cross in the sky, and nearby the star Alpha Centauri shone brightly, the nearest star to our sun. As an amateur astronomer it was a treat to see the southern skies, something I just can't do from Seattle.
It was still dark shortly after we crossed the equator when the RO
came back up and I took my rest break. All I brought with me was my iPod, but within minutes I could tell I was sleepy, turned it off, and closed my eyes. I awoke to bright sunshine in my eyes as a passenger to my right opened his window shade. I checked my watch and saw that about two-and-a-half hours had passed since I'd come back. The flight attendants were beginning their breakfast service -- fresh fruit, juice, and pastries. I declined the food and went back to the cockpit, still a little bleary-eyed. Fortunately the guys up front had already put up the sunshades, and after a can of Diet Coke I was back in business. We were about an hour and a half from Hawaii, and the calm morning was beautiful. The only clouds were small puffs of white cotton down close to the water, and the sunlight reflected in crystal sparkles off the gentle windblown swells below. I pulled the well-worn approach charts for Honolulu out of my flight bag and set up the computer in the plane to ensure all the appropriate waypoint were included.
As we approached the islands we could see all of them, from Kauai near us all the way to the big mountains of the Island of Hawaii -- Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. It was a very calm morning, and even the usual whitecaps were missing from the water below. Most of the time we approach the islands from the northwest, but we were coming from the southeast, which provided a new view for me. Also, instead of our normal flightpath over Honolulu with a 180 degree turn to final, we were nearly lined up for runway 8R as we descended. All we had to do was to aim for the southeast corner of Oahu, and we'd be able to make a shallow turn to final. Honolulu Center did just that for us, and we picked up the current weather as we descended -- calm winds and clear skies, and a somewhat cool 68 degrees. A cold front had passed through that night bringing cooler winter weather to the islands.
We were cleared to descend to 3000 feet, then with the airport in sight we were turned over to the tower. They cleared us to continue, advising us of another aircraft taking off from our runway ahead of us. We saw them lifting off while we were still about four miles away, and the tower cleared us to land. Getting a large plane to descend and slow down at the same time is an exercise in planning. Experience helps though, and at 1000 feet we were exactly on the glidepath and on speed, and I clicked off the autopilot and autothrottles to hand-fly it the rest of the way. Pearl Harbor passed off to our left, and the city of Honolulu and Waikiki Beach glittered directly ahead. The Koolau Mountains behind Honolulu shimmered like a folded green curtain, reminding me of why so many people love to come here for vacation. The winds were almost completely calm, so we didn't have the usual tradewind bumps while on final, and I made a very good landing right where I had planned to. We pulled off abeam our ramp, and went through the quick after-landing procedures -- putting up the flaps, turning on the APU, and turning off all the unnecessary radio gear. We parked at gate 33, and after filling out the postflight paperwork, we joined the rest of the crew who were waiting for one of the Wiki-Wiki shuttles on the upper roadway. We had shut down at 9:59am, one minute ahead of schedule, for a total block time of 9:40. We had left Sydney late Sunday evening, and thanks to the International Date Line, it was now early Sunday morning. My weekend was three days long! The shuttle took us to the customs area where we got our passports examined and declaration forms inspected. We all waved goodbye to each other, and the Captain and I went to the crew room, and from there I went out to the parking lot to go to my crashpad and catch another few hours of sleep. I had flown 19 hours and 53 minutes on the trip, but it really didn't feel like that much. There was a lot to see and do on the flights, and the 48 hours in Sydney just flew by.
That was the end of that trip, but Monday night I left on another, this one starting with a redeye to Las Vegas. Hopefully I'll get more chances to go 'down under' again. We fly three times a week from HNL
. Two of those have 48 hour layovers, and one has a 72 hour layover. Maybe next time I'll get the longer one! Thank you all of you who have waited patiently, and sent me e-mails asking me when the next trip report would be out. Hopefully it won't be another year before the next one arrives. Aloha!
One smooth landing is skill. Two in a row is luck. Three in a row and someone is lying.